Mental health and academic achievement are absolutely connected!

There’s no way around it, they are inextricably linked issues.

How can you possibly achieve great things when your life is spinning out of control?

We’ve all encountered mental health problems at some point or another, whether they be serious long term battles or temporary brushes with emotionality.

In my experience, we vastly underestimate the far-reaching implications of mental health on every aspect of our lives from academic achievement to interpersonal relationships.

Mental Health and Academic-Achievement

Mental Health and Academic Achievement: More Children Than You Know have Issues 

1 out of every 5 children have mental health issues!

Yep and the sad part is schools often do nothing about it.

This is so disheartening! That’s why I founded Holistic Neurodevelopment, our newest venture, because there is a grave need to keep these children (and adults) from falling through the cracks.

schools vary greatly in the degree to which they are willing and able to accommodate mental health issues. Some are doing a lot and training teachers on how to recognize warning signs and talk to families. And others are doing very little to understand the needs of students and how to work with families, said Gruttadaro.  One out of five children have mental illness, and schools often don’t help, PBS.Org


As a country, we need to come up with some sort of unified approach to address this issue or take accountability for the legions of young people facing bleak futures because of lack of intervention. 

Monumental societal change can and will happen if we explore the roots of how mental illness affects school performance to circumvent tragedies later in life.

You may find this hard to believe, but Columbia University TeenScreen claims that 20% of adolescents from 13 – 18 suffer from mental illness severe enough that it impairs their daily functions.

It’s frightening to think that out of a class of 23 students 4-5 are impacted to this degree!

Far Too Many Students Go Untreated 

As if this isn’t worrisome enough, nearly 2/3rds of these individuals aren’t treated at all!

So, as you can see mental health issues in schools isn’t a topic we can afford to ignore.  

To give you a better idea of how these issues impact real life, I’m going to share a list with you of ways that mental health and academic achievement are linked:

  1. Poor Attendance
  2. Difficulty with Academic Work and Socialization
  3. Inability to Concentrate
  4. Failure to Achieve Academically or Complete Grades
  5. Failure to Graduate or go on to Higher Education

"STAT surveyed dozens of universities about their mental health services. From major public institutions to small elite colleges, a striking pattern emerged: Students often have to wait weeks just for an initial intake exam to review their symptoms. The wait to see a psychiatrist who can prescribe or adjust medication — often a part-time employee — may be longer still.", Colleges Can't Meet Soaring Student Needs for Mental Health Care 

How Can We Ignore the Numbers? 


So let’s dig a little deeper into this issue.

A staggering 83% of students with mental health issues scored below the control group in the core subjects. There is no way anyone can ignore the link between mental health and academic achievement, when it’s so clearly underscored.

(Nelson, R. et al. (2004). Academic achievement of K-12 students with emotional and behavioral disorders. Exceptional Children 71(1):59-73)

This study illustrates just how important a student’s state of mind is to his or her overall academic achievement. From the perspective of a parent, these finding seem obvious. 

How can a child or teen succeed in school, if they have to combat anxiety, depression or psychosis? There is absolutely no way that they will achieve excellent results when pressing issues such as this come to the forefront. 

In a nutshell – a happy and healthy student is a successful student. 

As if this isn’t proof enough of the connection between mental health and academic achievement, well then this study will really turn your head. 

In 2008 a study uncovered that only 32% students with serious mental went on to get further education.

(United States Government Accountability Office. (June 2008). Young Adults with Serious Mental Illness; Report to Congressional Requesters GAO Report Number GAO-08-678. Washington, D.C.)


There Are Red Flags & We Are Missing Them: Mental Health & Academics 

With numbers like this we can’t afford to overlook how interdependent mental health and academic achievement really are.

Communities all over the US have to face this problem as the numbers continue to rise.

The first step is for educators, parents and support networks to learn how to recognize the signs.

There’s no way around it, mental illness often goes undiagnosed because people miss the red flags.


There are Some SERIOUSLY Scary Consequences 

When mental illness goes untreated, the consequences can be devastating. A report issued by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development stated nearly half of all homeless adults suffer from both mental illness and substance abuse. The Center for Disease Control reports suicide was the 10th leading cause of death for all ages in 2013 and the third leading cause of death among young teens. More than 90 percent of children who die by suicide have a mental health condition. The Tribune, San Luis Obispo, How to Spot Early Warning Signs of Mental Illness - and Offer Help

So what are the warning signs?

The first step in turning the tides in this mental health disaster is to educate yourself.  The more information you have, the better equipped you are to confront a situation that may actually be unfolding right in front of you. 

Here’s a list of signals you should be on the lookout for if you suspect someone in your life is suffering from mental health issues. 

According to Boston University Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation some of the signs are as follows:

  • marked personality change over time,
  • confused thinking; strange or grandiose ideas,
  • prolonged severe feelings of depression or apathy,
  • feelings of extreme highs or lows,
  • heightened anxieties, fears, anger or suspicion; blaming others,
  • social withdrawal, diminished friendliness, increased self-centeredness,
  • denial of obvious problems and a strong resistance to offers of help,
  • dramatic, persistent changes in eating or sleeping habits,
  • substance abuse,
  • thinking or talking about suicide.

Please Note: Mental illness isn’t usually connected to ONE of these symptoms or a singular event. Typically, the symptoms occur over several weeks or become a pattern of behavior.

...But I have GOOD News, Despite These Bleak Figures 


Although these symptoms clearly impact mental health and academic achievement, there’s some good news. 

I bet you’re a little perplexed. How can confused thinking, an inability to concentrate and pervasive anxiety be anything but bad news? 

There is simply no way for a student to reach his or her goals if they feel like this.  Well these thoughts are right…and WRONG. 

…and I promise there is light at the end of the tunnel! 

Research and my hands-on experience show that mental health and academic achievement are improved with early detection and intervention.

It is however, imperative that we address students needs as soon as possible to achieve optimal success.

Mental health issues in schools are far too prevalent, but you will be happy to hear that we achieve great things at Holistic Neurodevelopment and Fraley & Associates.

The key is to help students address stress levels, identify emotional issues and provide a nurturing environment that encourages them to reach for the stars.

Many children suffer from undiagnosed ADHD, ADD or anxiety. With a little input and some simple tools, seemingly insurmountable issues become a thing of the past.

Meditation, reevaluation of diet and exercise habits are an important part of our program. It really is possible to change your path. We know this because we see it time and time again. 

Give us a ring today. We can help! 

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